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Women and Alcoholism: Understanding and
Dealing with an Underrated Problem

Many people often underestimate the problem of women and alcoholism. Using and abusing alcohol was traditionally seen as a very male and macho thing. Men just being men - with the women at hand to ‘clean up the mess’ and keep the family going. After all – getting drunk wasn’t considered very lady-like.

But, times have changed. The woman’s role is no longer confined to looking after the family and maintaining order at home. Women hold the same positions of power and authority that men do in the work place and share the same dreams of independence (financial and otherwise) – so these days the kind of lifestyles men and women share is essentially the same. A woman wants to go out and have fun and a drink with her friends as much as the next guy.

With that of course it means women are drinking more – so when considering alcoholism and woman – naturally if more women are drinking (and drinking more) – alcoholism in woman is going to become more of a problem. I’m not saying that there weren’t alcoholic women in days gone by. Of course there were. Just like alcoholism isn’t confined to women who lead or aspire to lead a certain lifestyle ...

Becoming an alcoholic is as likely to happy to a woman executive, a housewife or student. Alcoholism knows no boundaries. So even though I might be a man having experienced my own addictions – living through the pain of having an alcoholic mother – means I feel compelled to give the growing problem of alcoholism in woman specific attention.

Women and Alcoholism: The Big Danger

As a woman – you need to realise that alcohol effects you differently than it does a man. Fact is - women get drunk faster than men do because men and women are wired differently biologically. Even if you’re a woman of the same height and weight as a man, having drunk the exact same amount of alcohol as a man, you’ll get drunk faster.

The primary reason for this is that as a woman, you have lower levels of a particular enzyme (ADH) that metabolises alcohol. Things like brain chemistry also play a part. So if you’re even just out drinking socially – you need to be aware of this because of the obvious dangers it can put you in (e.g. prowling men looking to take advantage).

Now if women get drunk faster, you are correct in assuming that women will develop full-blown alcoholism faster than a man. There’s a general rule of thumb that says a woman is likely to develop alcoholism 3x faster than a man. That’s a scary thought! So the bottom line is that as a woman drinker – you’re at much greater risk than a man.

So now that you know the especially dangerous alcoholism and woman link – let’s look at the other Health Effects of Alcohol on Women.

  • Women are more vulnerable than men to alcohol-induced brain damage
  • Moderate to heavy drinking places you at higher risk of breast cancer
  • Alcohol-induced liver damage happens faster in women than men making women more likely to die from cirrhosis
  • Alcohol-related heart disease is as much of a problem in women as men – despite the fact that over a life-time a woman is likely to have drunk less than her male counterpart
  • Abusing alcohol in pregnancy means you risk harming the fetus and leaving your baby irreversible physical, mental, behavioural, and learning disabilities

Women and Alcoholism: Getting Help

When looking at the growing alcoholism and woman problem – two big concerns are the escalating reports of binge drinking in young women - and that the greater stigma of a woman admitting to alcoholism means she’s less likely to admit to a problem and get help.

With binge drinking in young women on the rise it naturally puts them at risk of everything I have spoken about above. So young women especially need to be educated to the risks associated to alcohol abuse.

No one wants to admit to an alcohol problem – but less so women. It goes against the lady-like perception we as a society at large still believe a woman should uphold. Therefore it’s especially important that everything possible is done to educate women on the dangers of alcohol abuse specific to them and that getting professional help and treatment is encouraged.

So if you’re a woman struggling with alcoholism - please spend the time exploring especially the Alcohol Treatment areas of this site – and also refer to the Women for Sobriety website for specific help and information relating to women and alcoholism.

I also suggest taking a look at the alcoholism marriage page that deals with the problem of addiction and alcoholism in marriages and relationships.

Understanding how codependency and being codependent is a form of relationship addiction and something you need to be aware of when in a relationship will also be helpful.

And the final topic related to women and alcoholism that I think will be helpful is knowing what an alcoholism intervention entails and how to perform one successfully to ensure someone you love gets the help and treatment they need.

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